Assemblyman Andrew Raia (R,I,C-East Northport) today expressed outrage over a proposed federal five-year ban on lobster fishing in the Long Island Sound, calling this abridgment of states’ rights an “erasure of one of our region’s oldest and most vital economic drivers.”
A public comment session will be held tonight in Suffolk County and is expected to draw scores of local lobstermen whose livelihoods depend on North Shore commercial fisheries. The state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is sponsoring the meeting, open to the public, and is expected to turn over this feedback to the federal Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, an unelected body which has recommended the five-year ban.
According to figures supplied by the DEC, commercial lobster fishing brought in nearly $3 million in total revenue for the state in 2009; 60 percent of that business was created by fisheries in the Long Island Sound. A ban would likely put hundreds of baymen out of work and threatens to undermine any economic recovery in the region. Suffolk County’s unemployment rate stands near 7 percent; underemployment in the labor force is a staggering 12 percent.
“If the proposed ban on lobster fishing in the Long Island Sound is enacted by the Obama administration, it would not only put more people out of work but would cut off a vital part of New York State’s emerging economic recovery,” said Raia. “An unelected, unaccountable federal commission of 14 Atlantic coast states can hardly have the interests of our lobstermen in mind, fishermen who have been decimated by strict red tape and ever-higher taxes on their businesses. Shouldn’t we let the people who have an economic stake in lobster fishing be the final arbiters instead of a federal bureaucracy?”
“First the federal government ruins the lives of thousands of fishermen in the Gulf through its incompetent and incomplete cleanup efforts. Now that same government wants to ban outright the largest source of lobster-fishing economic activity in New York. Let’s not deep-six this economic recovery. I urge all state leaders to stand up for the rights of Long Island’s lobstermen today.”